Cornwall

Father found 'smelling of petrol' after fatal house fire

House fire scene
Image caption Harold Philpotts, who had mental health issues, is thought to have murdered his wife and son

A father was found "badly burned and smelling of petrol" after a fatal house fire in Cornwall, an inquest has heard.

Harold Philpotts, 47, who had mental health issues, is believed to be responsible for the fire at the family home near Newquay in January 2010.

Mr Philpotts' 10-year-old son, Ben, is thought to have been bludgeoned with a sledgehammer found nearby.

His mother Patricia died in the fire which started in her bedroom, the inquest at Truro City Hall heard.

Mr Philpotts had been asked to move out of the family home due to his behaviour, but was still allowed to see his son.

The officer who found him on a country lane near the village of Trevarrian in Newquay, told the inquest he was "in pain and it was apparent he needed urgent medical attention".

PC Stuart Faraday told the inquest that Mr Philpotts had later told the officer: "I was supposed to die, why didn't I die, I loved my family why did they do this to me?"

Petrol can found

He was taken to hospital accompanied by police but died eight days later from multiple organ failure as a result of the severe burns.

A petrol can was found near Mrs Philpotts' badly burned body in the house.

Earlier the inquest heard that Mr Philpotts had previously been admitted to hospital for mental health problems which included depression, delusion and paranoia, but he had discharged himself before treatment.

Dr Anand Irpati, from the Cornwall mental health team, said: "It was considered he presented only a small risk to others.

"He had suicidal thoughts when he was distressed but during a clinical interview he denied having thoughts to kill himself.

"At the time of the deaths, there were no concerns for the safety of his wife and son."

Dr Tim Baker, Mr Philpotts' GP at the time of his death, also said he was not aware of any concerns for Ben and his mother and there was "nothing to suggest" the deaths were predicable.

A serious case review, published in July by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Safeguarding Children Board, said that although Mr Philpotts was known to have mental health issues the death of Ben and his mother could not have been foreseen.

However, the report cited "weaknesses" in practices within mental health services and communication between agencies, and said Ben's safety at the hands of his father had not been sufficiently considered.

The inquest, conducted by Cornwall Coroner Dr Emma Carlyon in Truro, continues.

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